Mauve: How One Man Invented a Colour That Changed the World by Simon Garfield (Paperback, 2001)

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In his bestselling and widely praised Mauve, Simon Garfield tells the story of the forgotten scientific pioneer William Perkin, a man whose father didn't want him to become a chemist, and whose chemistry professor didn't want him to wreck his career in pursuit of a colour. By the age of 18, however, Perkin had made a discovery that would make him the richest chemist in Britain. 'Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, the book is more than just a biography of Perkin. Garfield weaves the past with the present as he tells us just how Perkin's discovery changed the world; New Scientist